Friday, January 18, 2013
New York City's newest express buses were designed to be easy to spot from a distance with two flashing blue lights in the marquis. But, Friday afternoon, the MTA said it was turning off the blinking deep blue indicator lights to avoid any chance that drivers might confuse the Select Bus Service buses for oncoming an emergency vehicle when viewed in a rear view mirror.
City Council Member Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island lobbied the MTA for the change. "We have trained the public that when they see blue flashing lights to get out of the way and all emergency vehicles to get to said emergency," he said. "Buses are not emergency vehicles." Drivers in his district told him they felt like they were being pulled over by police only to find it was a bus approaching.
Removing confusion for drivers however, might shift confusion to bus passengers. It could also deal a set back to NYC's plan to spread a new and improved brand of express bus service known elsewhere as bus rapid transit. To move buses faster under this scheme, buses are given dedicated lanes and passengers pay before they board using vending machines at bus stops.
The MTA Announcement:
Reacting to specific concerns, MTA New York City Transit has agreed to turn off the flashing blue lights that have served to alert riders to the arrival of Select Bus Service buses (SBS) since the speedier service was introduced. This measure is being taken to eliminate the possibility of confusing the vehicles with volunteer emergency vehicles, which are entitled by law to use the blue lights. We are currently in the process of developing an alternate means of identifying SBS buses.
"Those lights distinguish the Select Bus from the local bus," a spokesperson at Institute for Transportation and Development Policy explained in defense of the lights. ITDP advises cities -- including New York City -- on building and designing bus rapid transit systems. “We expect that if those lights go off, passengers will be confused about which kind of bus is approaching, which is important, because there are two different fare systems,” the spokesperson said. Passengers need to know if they should pay at the vending machine before the bus arrives, or they risk missing it. NYC passengers pay for local buses on board.
Rather than a deciding between two types of confusion, the MTA's choice to darken the blinking blue bus lights seems to have been more of a legal one, as Ignizio describes it. NY state traffic law states that colored flashing blue lights are reserved for emergency vehicles, specifically volunteer firefighters.
Ignizio made the legal case to the MTA after personally finding the lights confusing and putting the question to his Staten Island constituents. More than 100 people on Facebook agreed with him, he said.
Ignizio met with then-MTA head Joe Lhota, now a mayoral candidate, and made the case for turning off the lights. Ignizio says, Lhota said he would do something about the lights. And now the MTA has.
The bus rapid transit experts at ITDP say other cities use different ways to distinguish an express bus from a local. Some cities paint buses different colors, for instance. The MTA is considering what indicator will replace the flashing blue lights.
When asked how many complaints the MTA received from confused motorists about the lights, a spokesman said, "one." In 2008 (the year the service was launched). In the Bronx.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Despite all the fund raising and promises of recovery, when it comes to getting small businesses in Queens up and running after Sandy, the federal government has approved 37 loans for the entire borough, while the city has given out only 28. In the Rockaways, where much of the area was without heat and power for weeks after the storm, it’s given 9 loans.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Here's a little insight into how New York City Hall works....
A press release went out from the mayor's office Thursday morning in which Mayor Bloomberg announced faster bus service to LaGuardia Airport beginning next year.
The bus is a so-called "select bus," now up and running in several New York boroughs. The buses have their own lanes, off-board payment, signal priority at red lights, and other enhancements to give passengers a speedier ride.
Bloomberg has pioneered their use -- called "Bus Rapid Transit" in places like Bogota, Colombia, where the buses have their own, physically segregated lanes -- in New York City.
The Mayor was quoted prominently in the press release, saying that the new "select bus service" lines, would cut travel time, and help both airport workers and flyers.
But when Bloomberg gave a news conference later in the day, and a reporter asked him to comment about the plan, he had a hard time answering the question.
"I love select buses. I didn't know there was one. I'll have them talk to you. It's a great idea. But I just don't know - Is there an issue with it?," the Mayor said.
The reporter told him his office put out a news release about it.
"Good," Bloomberg continued. "I was on a plane, so I didn't read it. Okay. Love to help you but I can't read everything."
A spokesman for the mayor said the release was issued because the select bus service plan was mentioned Wednesday evening at a community event. He said the mayor was aware of the bus plan, but not that a press release was going out about it.
Friday, January 21, 2011
After a slow start, Select Bus service on First and Second Avenues is consistently faster than the old M15 express bus service, according to new data from the MTA.
TN Moving Stories: Park Slope Residents To Air Feelings About Bikes Tonight, and Tulsa Transit To Do a Fast Forward
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Support for making people register their bicycles hits Park Slope (Gothamist)--which is also where, tonight at 6:30 (Old Reformed Church - Carroll and 7th Avenue) the NYC DOT will present their preliminary Prospect Park West bike lane findings to Community Board 6. The Brooklyn Paper says that the bike lane is working, and "accidents have plummeted dramatically since the installation of the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane in the spring, new city data reveals."
The NYC MTA says Select Bus Service has sped up travel on Manhattan's East Side by up to 19% (NY1).
Gen Y housing preferences were the subject of at least two panels at the National Association of Home Builders convention. A key finding: They want to walk everywhere. (Yahoo Real Estate)
Tulsa unveiled Fast Forward, that city's new transit plan, which will include standard buses, express buses, streetcars, commuter rail and light rail transit. (Tulsa World)
China is planning on installing 10 million electric vehicle charging stations by by 2020. (Autoblog Green)
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials kicked off a six-week social media campaign Wednesday to generate public response about the country's transportation needs. The group plans to present the videos and comments to federal officials in March. (Washington Post)
These are strange transit days in Toronto. One Globe and Mail columnist writes: "First, a new mayor refuses to go ahead with a light-rail network that has been planned, approved, announced and funded, with contracts signed and construction under way. Now, the regional transit agency, Metrolinx, recommends going ahead with a project – electrification of GO Transit lines – that would take two decades to plan, approve and build and that lacks any government funding whatsoever."
Brooklyn residents say MTA platform closures leave them stranded. (WNYC)
Chrysler is partnering with the EPA to develop a new minivan that doesn't use batteries or electric motors to drive it (CNN Money). Meanwhile, Toyota is developing a car battery that doesn't use rare earth metals (Gas 2.0).
Is Venice going on a "road diet?" Suck it in, cars! (LAist)
One KALW listener witnessed a bus rider roasting marshmallows with a Bic lighter on a MUNI bus.
Mayor Bloomberg tweet from yesterday's State of the City address: "If subway fares increased as fast as pensions, by next year it would cost $8.39 a ride!"
Top Transportation Nation stories that we’re following: Mayor Bloomberg talked about livery cabs and ferries in yesterday's State of the City address. NYC's first rental of a Chevy Volt happened yesterday. And: What can the US learn from Europe's restrictive parking policies?
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Monday, November 22, 2010
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Starting today, cameras are helping to police New York's bus rapid transit route. The Department of Transportation announced five cameras are watching out for drivers that illegally enter the bus lanes on the new Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side.
In case you were wondering, the New York Police Department has issued 13,833 summonses for violating the lanes—that's without the use of any camera assistance.
The figure is current, according to NYPD, as of November 17. That means the NYPD has been issuing about 350 tickets every day since the SBS lanes launched on October 10. Each ticket for driving in the bus lanes is at least $115.
Here's the math: NY's Finest have served about $1.6 million in summonses in protection of speedier East Side bus service so far.
We'll follow up to see if the pace of ticketing tapers off as drivers learn more about the lanes and awareness of the rules and enforcement increase. We'll also try to find out if the pace of the buses picks up with this traffic enforcement.
Manhattan Select Bus Service's Launching Pains: Cranky Passengers, Cabs in the Bus Lane, Faster Ride
Thursday, October 14, 2010
(Alex Goldmark — Transportation Nation) Manhattan got its first taste of "bus rapid transit" this week. New York's MTA calls it Select Bus Service, and it is rolling up and down dedicated red lanes...well, mostly.
I rode the M15 SBS in afternoon traffic from one of the busiest stops at 14th street through Midtown and up into the more residential (and busier) Upper East Side until 68th street, talking to riders along the way. For most of the trip it was clear this is a bus line working out the kinks on a good idea. Riders were still learning how to use the new payment system, which is on the sidewalk, not on the bus. And, to put it kindly, drivers of other vehicles are still learning to stay out of the bus lanes.
In all it took me just about 30 minutes each direction, a little under that going northbound and a little over heading southbound.
(There's some dispute about whether New York's system can even be fairly called BRT, since it doesn't include several important features of the systems in Bogota and Guanzhou, China, like physically separated lanes and BRT "stations" similar to light rail stations.)
That's fast in comparison to last week's options. Two riders told me they are now getting to work in half the time—but transit riders are notoriously inaccurate when estimating travel times. Most riders, though, haven't yet timed out their trips. They were more confused with the new payment system and with a route that now skips stops that the old express or "limited" bus used to make.
All along the route, though, New York City Department of Transportation and transit employees were on hand to explain how the new vending machines work, and answer questions about the new route. And man, were they needed.